Ray Ramsay is more a personality than he is a writer.
That is, if you believe a writer is disciplined, their writing carefully structured and all is balanced and clear.
Not Ray, or RayMan as he’s credited himself here on his second book of adventures as a record promotion man, Monkey See, Monkey Two.
How the second volume got published before the first is something he can explain, and probably will be explaining forever after.
The first might have that discipline, structure or balance, It also might be lacking the personality that enlivens Monkey See. That would be too bad. It wouldn’t be RayMan.
This one has his fondness for puns, wordplay, asides, distraction and in-jokes that occasionally are too in.
It’s 170 pages are short essays, impressions, recollections and opinions, odes, snapshots and caricature. Nothing heavy, a few over which you can argue. His Chatter – Ray’s word for Chapter – on punk is remarkably fair considering he doesn’t like it. It’s missing depth though because it’s not an easily explained subject. I was there and I can’t do it.
He has another “chatter” on the women he has known and worked with in the music industry. When he was coming up through TPC to retirement at RCA there were a lot of women, more than Ray can mention. Many, unfortunately get left out. It’s easy to see what he’s trying to do but it’s explosive territory and gratuitous.
These are two of the longest pieces in an entertaining read.
It took me back to my own career in music. I think I met Ray while I was music dictator at the University of British Columbia’s CYVR radio. We were a feeble mess, but we promoted the records we played and he was a promotion man. As well, I had just started as a West Coast stringer for a Toronto-based music monthly, Beetle.
Ray was determined to break Lenny, a film about Lenny Bruce starring Dustin Hoffman. He got a bunch of really bad t-shirts that I silk screened a Lenny design in a CYVR studio. Whether this was a good idea – the shirts would unravel and the silk screen ink was heavy and thick – or successful I don’t know, but I got to see how Ray thought and worked.
He had me interviewing Kiss around the time they appeared at the Commodore. My turn was just after Bob Geldof interviewed them for the Georgia Straight and pissed them off.
In a small way, he might be responsible for organizing a trip that sent me to Jamaica to see the Peace Concert (known as One Love), eventually to meet Bob Marley at his home and become my own career highlight.
He approaches things with an alertness and creativity – and cynical humour – that other promo men don’t display but which his Monkey See, Monkey Two makes evident.